Clear Your Schedule – Thanksgiving Week, 2014

By Brian Wilmer -

Well, friends, Thanksgiving week is upon us.  It is the week for Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, the Egg Bowl, the Commonwealth Cup, the Battle of the Palmetto State and classic games around the country.  It’s also the time for tradition.  Whether you go visit family, brave the crowds at some random buffet restaurant or just veg on the couch and watch football, there’s always something for everyone to love this time of year.

It’s a time of tradition for me, too.  For those who don’t know — and that’s probably most of you — I’ve done sports radio for a longer while than I care to recap.  (Book me for podcasts.  I work cheap.  Pizza even works.)  One of the staples of my time in sports radio was something called The Sixer, where we would identify the six biggest games of the weekend, and the show’s thousands hundreds tens of listeners would cast their picks and try their lot for bragging rights amongst each other.  I’ve gotten out of that tradition of late, having become a high school football correspondent (which is so much fun — I cannot recommend it strongly enough, if you get the chance) and just finding myself eternally short on time.  This week, though, I bring that tradition to you for the first time in my three-plus years here at FBSchedules.  We’ll get underway here in just a second, but let’s first answer our trivia question!

Clear Your Schedule Trivia, Week 14 (answer at the end of the column):  In how many cities has the Virginia-Virginia Tech football rivalry been played?

The Sixer (all times Eastern and rankings AP)

#13 Arizona State (9-2, 6-2 PAC-12) at #12 Arizona (9-2, 6-2 PAC-12) – Duel in the Desert
3:30pm (Friday) | ESPN

  • Covering ground:  Despite both teams’ lofty national rankings, neither is particularly adept at stopping the run.  The Sun Devils rank ninth in the PAC-12 in run defense, while the Wildcats are 11th.   This would seem to create opportunities for both teams’ star rushers.  Wildcat running back Nick Wilson is the first-ever Arizona freshman to break the 1,000-yard mark, and his 1,085-yard total is good for fourth-best in the conference.  ASU’s D.J. Foster averages 88 yards per contest, and per the Sun Devils’ sports information department, is the only active FBS back to rush for greater than 900 yards and have greater than 500 receiving yards.
  • Talented throwers:  Friday’s game should be a showcase of proficient passers.  Arizona’s Anu Solomon is currently 12th in the nation in passing yards, throwing for 292.4 yards per game.  Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly has been spectacular since returning from injury, completing 56 percent or greater of his passes in three of his four games back at the helm.  Both teams’ pass defenses are quite far down the FBS rankings (ASU 107th, Arizona 113th), so footballs may be flying about all afternoon on Friday.
  • A typical rivalry:  Arizona has won 47 of the 87 previous iterations of the Duel in the Desert, but Arizona State has taken the crown of late.  The Sun Devils have victories in back-to-back seasons, and have taken three of the last four.  Close contests are the norm, as well, with four of the last five games between the two decided by seven points or fewer.

Trophy:  “The original (Territorial) Cup is silverplate over a britannia base metal and was manufactured by Reed and Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts. It was a standard style trophy and priced at $20 ($439.89 in 2007 dollars) in Reed and Barton’s 1910 catalog. ” (link)

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Both teams are still alive in the conference race, but need help.  Both teams need this win, for myriad reasons.  Should be a fun one.

Virginia (5-6, 3-4 ACC) at Virginia Tech (5-6, 2-5 ACC) – Commonwealth Cup
8:00pm (Friday) | ESPN
(Author’s note:  I’m from Virginia.  I can’t not include this game.  Indulge me.)

  • Two lousy decades:  Virginia has managed to knock off their in-state rival just four times in the last twenty years, including a modest two-game winning streak in 1997-1998.  The last time the ‘Hoos secured a victory over the Hokies, their then-starting quarterback Matt Schaub tossed 32 completions in 46 attempts, going for 358 yards and two scores against one pick.  That was in 2003.
  • Speaking of streaks:  The Hokies have a pretty impressive streak of their own that could very easily fall by the wayside this Friday night.  Tech has been to a bowl game every year since 1993, which most people know, but not much is made of the year before that Independence Bowl victory against Indiana.  The Hokies defeated only then I-AA James Madison and Temple in ’92, going winless over their final eight games to finish with a 2-8-1 record.  A 41-38 loss to Virginia — in Blacksburg, ironically enough — closed their last season without a bowl appearance.
  • This spells trouble:  Virginia held Miami running back Duke Johnson under 100 yards last week in a convincing victory over the Hurricanes.  Conversely, Johnson ran for nearly three times as many yards (249) in a victory against the Hokies.  Both James Conner and Duke Johnson had their lowest rushing yardage numbers of the year against the Cavs, and Tech averages just 137.7 yards per game on the ground.  Even worse, the Hokies threw for only 143 yards last week against Wake Forest.

Trophy (per Virginia’s sports information department):  “The Cup is made of marble and cherry wood, stands four feet high and weighs more than 100 pounds.  The scores of all 95 games in the rivalry are engraved on the sides of the trophy.”

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  This has to be the year London’s charges get Tech, doesn’t it? If they win, they’re in a bowl.  If they lose, London’s critics get even louder.

#8 Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) at #16 Georgia Tech (9-2, 6-2 ACC) – Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate
Noon | SEC Network

  • In a rush:  Georgia’s 54th-ranked rushing defense will get quite the workout on Saturday.  Since allowing just 50 yards to Missouri several weeks ago, the Bulldogs have seen four of five opponents go for 150 yards or greater, including an unfathomable 418 by the Florida Gators in Jacksonville.  The Yellow Jackets rank fourth in the land in rushing, averaging 328 yards per game.  Georgia Tech also has 250 rushing yards or greater against every FBS team they have faced this season.  On the other hand, Georgia Tech’s rushing defense ranks 71st, and they will face Georgia’s 13th-ranked running game.  The Bulldogs have toted the rock for 200 yards or greater in every game but one this season.
  • Domination:  Georgia’s Mark Richt has won 12 of the 13 games his team has played against the Ramblin’ Wreck.  The only loss came in a 45-42 decision on November 29, 2008.
  • By a foot:  The kicking game often plays a large role in rivalry games, and both teams’ kickers bear watching.  Georgia’s Marshall Morgan and Georgia Tech’s Harrison Butker have attempted relatively few field goals — 16 apiece — with Morgan converting 12 and Butker 10.

Trophy:  The Governor’s Cup (established 1995)

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  This very well may end up being the game of the week.  The consequences are huge on both sides, and Tech’s out for blood.

#4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1 SEC) at #18 Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC)
3:30pm | CBS

  • The watchful “Eye”:  Mississippi State’s sports information department mentions that this is the first Egg Bowl game to ever be broadcast by CBS.  Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Allie LaForce will have the call from Oxford.
  • Dual-sided battle:  Ole Miss claims victories in 61 of the 110 all-time matchups between the two teams.  Dan Mullen, however, has taken four of five against the Rebels as Mississippi State’s coach, falling only by a 41-24 margin in 2012.  The teams have split the 14 meetings played since 2000.
  • Banged-up Bo:  The injury status of Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace will bear watching on Saturday afternoon.  Wallace suffered a lower leg injury against Arkansas last week, eventually slogging through a 16-for-31, 235-yard performance that saw him unable to dent the end zone.  Wallace threw two picks in the contest.  Dual-threat freshman DeVante Kincade would be the next man up, in the event of a Wallace injury.  Kincade has 24 carries for 88 yards and a score this season, while completing 15-of-17 passes for 116 yards and a score.

Trophy:  The Golden Egg

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Mississippi State can still get to Atlanta with a win and a ‘Bama loss.  Ole Miss can still wreck their rival’s season.  Awesome.

#22 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) at #14 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten)
3:30pm | BTN

  • Meaning for Minnesota:  Say this with me:  Minnesota is playing for a Big Ten divisional championship.  This is not a typo.  Jerry Kill’s Gophers are one win — an admittedly tough win — away from taking home the Big Ten West crown.  The Gophers last won a Big Ten crown in 1967, tying with Indiana and Purdue, and their last outright title came in 1941.
  • Meanwhile in Minnesota:  This series has not been the most successful of late for the Gophers.  Minnesota has not won since 2003, with their last win in Wisconsin coming in 1994.  That 17-14 Minnesota win was one of just two Big Ten losses for the Badgers that season (Ohio State being the other).
  • Mashing Minnesota?:  The Badgers’ Melvin Gordon has gained national notoriety for his recent 408-yard rushing performance.  Keep in mind, however, that the Gophers have allowed 463 rushing yards over the last two games, and have surrendered a rushing TD in every game this year except one (San Jose State).  Wisconsin ranks third nationally, galloping for greater than 343 yards per game.  The Badgers have cracked the 500-yard mark twice (644 against Bowling Green and 581 two weeks ago against Nebraska).

Trophy:  Paul Bunyan’s Axe (established 1948)

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  This would be a monstrous win for the Gophers — possibly their biggest ever.  It’s tough to see a path for them against Wisconsin, though.

#15 Auburn (8-3, 4-3 SEC) at #2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) – Iron Bowl
7:45pm | ESPN

  • Controlling the campus:  Thanks to the series history predominantly taking place in Birmingham, just 21 Iron Bowls have been played at campus locations.  Auburn has wins in 15 of those games, with seven of the nine played in Tuscaloosa falling into the win column for the Tigers.
  • Get up, it’s GameDay:  In a stat that is likely apropos of nothing — though this is, after all, a site about scheduling — Alabama will make their 32nd appearance on ESPN’s College GameDay this weekend.  They have won in just 19 of the previous 31 appearances, though, as Alabama’s sports information department mentions, the Tide have taken 16 of the 22 appearances made under Nick Saban.
  • Triumphant in Tuscaloosa:  Alabama has recorded 15 consecutive wins at Bryant-Denny Stadium, winning all six of their contests in the burg west of Birmingham.  Only Florida has even managed 21 points in Tuscaloosa, succumbing 42-21 to the Tide on September 20.  Alabama’s last loss on their home turf happened over two years ago, as Texas A&M burst onto the national scene with a 29-24 victory on November 10, 2012.

Trophy:  The James E. Foy, V Omicron Delta Kappa Sportsmanship Trophy (established 1948)

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  If Alabama wins this game, they get the prize (?) of playing an extra game in Atlanta.  Some advantage.

Before we get to the trivia answer, I just wanted to take a second and say a few words.

As thankful as I am to Kevin for doing what he does and allowing me to write for you guys each week, I’m equally — if not more — thankful to all of you for being here.  We don’t always agree — and that’s fine — but I’m so happy to be a part of such an intelligent and loyal group of fans.  I have “my” teams, sure, as we all do, though that’s become a bit muted with my doing what I do.  Your passion is always on display, and that’s what has always made me love this game.

From me and mine to you and yours, may you all have the most joyous and blessed Thanksgiving season possible, and I wish you fun and fellowship.  Safe travels to you all, and we’ll reconvene here next week to talk conference championships!

Trivia answer:  I asked earlier:   In how many cities has the Virginia-Virginia Tech football rivalry been played?

Five.  They are as follows:

  • Charlottesville (home of UVa)
  • Blacksburg (home of Virginia Tech)
  • Richmond (1903, 1904, 1957)
  • Norfolk (1940, 1941, 1942)
  • Roanoke (1945-56, 1958, 1960-63)

Comments (5)

Great games this weekend, thaks to all the writers who keep these post coming & Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

The Iron Bowl is important for a couple reasons, none bigger than the SEC Championship Belt. Alabama is in possession of it again after beating MSU. They lost it to AU last season. I really need to post the entire history here since Punt On Third Down is now dead.

Outstanding synopsis of a really good football weekend.There are quite a few really good games to watch ,and a lot of folks will be stuffed with turkey and perhaps their favorite beverage sprawled on the couch or their favorite chair.
The stats furnished are certainly an indication of how one should be expecting things to turn out,but we all know that does not always apply.Great job,as usual.